A string of recruiting misses and poor coaching decisions haunting the Bulldogs
Georgia football coach Mark Richt’s pedigree suggests that he might fare better than most at grooming quarterbacks, but the harsh reality that the Bulldogs currently find themselves in speaks otherwise.
A string of costly recruiting misses, defections and poor coaching choices have essentially left the quarterback cupboards bare in Athens, spoiling what was supposed to be a banner season for the Dawgs.
Worse still, it could be a while longer before things get better.
Georgia enters Saturday’s home date with Kentucky having lost three of its last four games, including last weekend’s 27-3 beatdown at the hands of rival Florida. The offensively challenged Dawgs have struggled most at the quarterback position and have yet to score a touchdown since dropping a 38-31 decision at Tennessee on Oct. 10.
Seldom-used fourth-year junior Faton Bauta threw 4 interceptions in making his first start against the Gators last week after supplanting a struggling Greyson Lambert in the starting lineup. Redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey has also had opportunities but has failed to impress.
But how did it come to this for the state’s flagship program, a storied one so rich in both resources and talent? And in a state so loaded with high school talent?
Defections from the only signed quarterbacks from two of the Bulldogs’ last five recruiting classes and the decision to not sign another scholarship quarterback in 2015 are decisions that are coming back to haunt the Dawgs now. Richt has few options at this point.
Redshirt freshman Jacob Park bolted this summer after entering the spring as a candidate to start only to find himself a distant No. 3 going into the summer behind Ramsey and Fauta. Park, a former four-star recruit, was rated the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2014 and the No. 114 prospect overall by the 247Sports composite.
His decision to leave for greener pastures follows a similar choice by Christian LeMay in December 2013. The former four-star prospect from the Class of 2011 never panned out and attempted just two passes during his tenure at Georgia after being passed over on the depth chart.
But not even the remaining quarterbacks developed as Richt might have hoped. It spoke volumes of Ramsey, a former Wing-T quarterback in high school, that Lambert could graduate from Virginia and not arrive on campus until August and still beat him out for the starting job. It was likewise no accident that Fauta had been in the program for four years but had yet to see a meaningful snap until last Saturday. He remained an afterthought in the quarterback battle until it had become painfully clear that neither Lambert nor Ramsey were the answer.
All the more agonizing to Georgia fans has been simultaneously watching so many other quarterbacks from Georgia excel at the collegiate level for other teams and wondering about what might have been. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (Gainesville) and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs (Alpharetta), in particular, rank as two of the most exciting players in all of college football. Watson will be in the running for the Heisman Trophy as he’s put the undefeated Tigers in contention for the national championship.
Richt, a former college quarterback at Miami whose teammates included Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde, came to Athens with a distinct offensive background. Yet, he made the decision not to sign a quarterback for the Class of 2015 because the Dawgs had already landed a commitment for next year from Jacob Eason, the nation’s top-rated high school quarterback, and clearly feared scaring him off by signing another signal-caller.
Frustrated Georgia fans have already begun clamoring for Eason, who is expected to graduate from high school early and enroll at school in January. But it’s extremely rare that a true freshman quarterback can step in right away and play at a high level in college, let alone in the rugged SEC.
However, making do in the meantime won’t be easy as the indecision by Richt and Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer won’t exactly inspire confidence from their quarterbacks in either themselves or the coaches calling the shots.
The move to effectively throw the overmatched Bauta to the wolves against a stiff Gators defense in Jacksonville was flawed from the outset and wreaked of desperation. Ramsey, a former three-star recruit, has all the accuracy of a scud missile and might be better suited staying at punter on a full-time basis.
Lambert, who had played his way out of the starting lineup at Virginia before transferring, is obviously flawed as well, but he still figures to be Georgia’s best bet for now.
The Bulldogs are hardly the first program to have hit upon rocky times after a string of recruiting misses and other factors. Florida endured as much for several years following the departure of Tim Tebow in 2009 and is only now recovering.
Georgia is hoping it doesn’t take as long in Athens.